Friday, February 27, 2015

Chocolate beet brownie bites (gluten-free)

Chocolate beet brownie bites are a low-guilt, rich treat but also naturally sweetened, gluten-free and loaded with healthy veggies.

chocolate beet brownie bites {gluten-free!}

If you're going to eat a rich, chocolately treat, it might as well be loaded with vegetables, right? Think that's not possible? Think again, my friends.

Behold: Rich, dark chocolate brownie bites, finished with crunchy sea salt -- but also loaded with beets, as well as naturally sweetened (zero refined sugar, thanks to sweet dried dates) and gluten-free.

Too good to be true? Nah -- just another stealthy way The Ninj has discovered to get Mr. Ninj to eat his vegetables ... because he's my equivalent of your picky 5-year-old eater, but worse, since I can't threaten to take away his screen time or anything.

Beets. What a seriously misunderstood vegetable! They don't have to be relegated to the roasting pan or pickling jar. They're perfect for baking, too. Beets come in beautiful colors, are naturally sweet and are the key ingredient that makes real red velvet cake red.

You know, if you like cake. (insert snort laugh)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crunchy bok choy salad

Crunchy bok choy salad, with a clever ramen noodle topping and a sweet-and-spicy peanut dressing: an easy, healthy weeknight meal.

crunchy bok choy salad

This is one of those recipes that I've been making for years -- one of my go-to, healthy and easy weeknight meals that I really should have shared with you long ago.

Maybe it's fate. Maybe the universe wanted me to be ready to photograph it really, really well so that you'll be convinced to try it and spread the good news of the bok choy salad. And its three secret weapons.

Secret Weapon #1: Ramen noodles.

Yes, ramen freaking noodles. Yes, the kind that you buy in the little cellophane packages for 22 cents or some ridiculous pittance like that. But just the noodles, mind you, not the nasty little packet of "flavor."

And you don't even need to cook the noodles. Just put the package on a hard surface, smash it all up with your fist, then open the bag and throw out the flavor package.

Voila: Instant crunchy salad topper.

(I know, right?)

But wait: There's more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Slow cooker soy and citrus chicken

Sweet and tangy slow cooker soy and citrus chicken, flavored with warm spices, soy, ginger and orange: a simple, healthy, one-pot meal.

slow cooker soy and citrus chicken

What is it about cold weather that turns me into a slow cooker junkie?

I swear, it's a good thing I own more than one slow cooker because when the weather turns chilly, I've been know to have them cooking round the clock: I start one with overnight oatmeal for breakfast before I go to sleep and then immediately fire up another as soon I get up with a batch of chicken stew or butternut chili.

I also like my slow cooker for busy weeknight meals. What a treat to have a whole meal ready to go, nearly effortlessly, at the end of a long day.

If that's the way you use your slow cooker, too, you're going to be completely jazzed about this slow cooker soy and citrus chicken. This sweet and tangy chicken takes only a few minutes of prep and is so flavorful you only need to serve it on a bed of fresh greens for a healthy, delicious, one-pot meal.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bourbon fig jam

Enjoy easy, versatile bourbon fig jam on a charcuterie platter, paired with cheese, swirled into morning yogurt or slathered on warm toast. 

bourbon fig jam

So, I guess you knew it was inevitable that I'd hit the bourbon, once I moved to Kentucky.

But, in true Ninj fashion, I'm not just drinking it or soaking holiday fruitcake in it -- I'm also cooking with it (not that the two don't go hand-in-hand at Casa de Ninj, mind you). Behold, this sweet and smoky bourbon fig jam, one of two recipes I created recently for the readers of Edible Green Mountains magazine.

(In case you didn't realize, in addition to being The Ninj on this blog, I'm also a freelance writer for a variety of other publications, both print and online.)

My article is an homage to bourbon as a winter warmer -- because boat drinks and icy glasses of white wine just don't cut it in wintertime, no matter on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you find yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Black bean sweet potato burgers

You won't miss the meat in this flavorful, hearty veggie burger, loaded with healthy sweet potato, black beans and sharp cheddar cheese.

black bean sweet potato burgers

In your efforts to eat healthier, have you embraced more meatless meals?

We try to, but it's hard when you love bacon and sausage -- and only half-jokingly refer to yourself as The Meatasaurus.

One way we've successfully enjoyed more meatless dinners is with veggie burgers. If your only experience with veggie burgers are those frozen, cardboard-like discs that come four-to-a-box in your grocer's freezer, it's time to put down the processed food and make your own.

A good, homemade veggie burger can truly be a delicious substitute for a traditional grilled burger (not all the time, mind you -- clearly I'm not that cray cray). I love to make big batches of them to keep on hand in the freezer for times when I need a quick lunch or I'm at a loss as to what to make for dinner. They can go from freezer to table in less than 15 minutes.

To keep the freezer back-up meals interesting, I've added this new black bean and sweet potato burger to the stash. It was inspired by a recipe from the brand-new Cabot Creamery Cookbook, which is officially available online or at your favorite bookstore as of today! If you're a fan of cheese (lordy, I do not want to meet the person who isn't a fan of cheese), do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this cookbook. The recipes -- for everything from entrees to desserts -- are delish, the photos are gorgeous: it's a real treat.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chocolate and goat cheese pastries {+ a giveaway}

Enjoy these easy yet elegant pastries, filled with dark chocolate and creamy goat cheese, for breakfast, at tea time or as a light dessert.

chocolate and goat cheese pastry

We regularly -- and without question -- pair cheese with wine, right? Similarly, we know how good a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate can taste.

So why is it that we don't often think of pairing cheese and chocolate together?

Clearly we've been missing the boat. In a big way.

In honor of Valentine's Day (which, frankly, is not a big deal around Casa de Ninj) and, perhaps more importantly, the end of Detox January (which I vow will not simply become Retox February), I've created a little treat -- dark chocolate and goat cheese pastries -- that you can enjoy for breakfast, with afternoon tea or as a light dessert.

Or, if you're Mr. Ninj, all three.

Regular readers know I'm a big fan of sweet and savory combinations, like my salted cardamom oatmeal cookies or the holiday favorite bourbon-salted peanut butter chocolate truffles. So when my friends at Vermont Creamery and Lake Champlain Chocolates suggested pairing chocolate and cheese for Valentine's Day, my interest was a little more than piqued.

At first I was a little stumped as to how best to mix the creamy, savory goat cheese with the richer, sweeter chocolate -- other than just snarfing them down separately, of course. I tried to think classier. Which made me realize that both since both cheese and chocolate get melty and even more awesome when warm, why not tuck all that awesomeness inside a pastry?


As with many of my recipes, this one is easy peasy, even though it makes quite an elegant impression. The pastry puffs up like you wouldn't believe, and while the goat cheese and rich chocolate does indeed, as I had hoped, get all melty and awesome in the center, there's not so much of it as to overwhelm the whole pastry effect. It's very less-is-more.